Cabinet approves amendment in law on print media policy

New Delhi, February 10 (PTI): A comprehensive bill to replace the age-old law relating to print media that will cover internet edition of newspapers and include provisions on limits on foreign news content and investment was today approved by the Union cabinet. At the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Cabinet decided to amend the 1867 Press and Registration of Books Act to streamline the age-old processes pertaining to the print media policy.
Under the proposed Press and Registration of Books and Publications Bill 2010, persons convicted of terrorist and unlawful activities will not be allowed to bring out any publication. “There was no such provision in the earlier law,” information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said. The comprehensive legislation, to be brought soon, will address issues ranging from title verification, definitions of publications including internet editions of newspapers. It will have various other provisions— from those on preventing blocking of titles to those relating to limits on foreign news content and foreign investment.
Noting that there has been a phenomenal growth in the publishing industry in recent years with over 70,000 publications coming out, information and broadcasting secretary Raghu Menon said the bill would streamline the process of title verification and prevent “squatters” on titles which have been blocked for many years and no publication brought out. Under the proposed bill which would be “more user-friendly”, the publication should be out within one year of allotment of title and there should be regular submission of annual statements by the publisher. The periodicity of publication and submission of annual statements would be made mandatory.
“There have been a number of guidelines and executive orders on the FDI limit, facsimile editions, scientific, technical and other specialised journals. But these have had no statutory backing. This bill will now provide the legal backing to these guidelines,” Menon said. Asked whether any change has been made in the FDI limits, he said “the limits on FDI or on foreign publications are already there. We have not amended this. What we have done is to provide statutory backing to the guidelines. There has been no change in FDI limits”. Regarding titles, he said the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) has de-blocked “thousands of titles which have been lying unused for a long time. Now, it will be mandatory to launch a publication within a time-frame once a title is granted. Now there will be a proper legal backing to this process”.